Roger Penske’s international automotive and transportation enterprise reported sales of $19 billion in 2014, employing 39,000 employees worldwide. Holdings include the world’s second largest automobile dealership group as well as truck and equipment rentals, leasing and logistics services.
But for all of those accomplishments, the Corporation’s best-known asset is Penske Racing. With an unrivaled record for wins at the Indianapolis 500 and dominant presence in virtually every major national series, Team Penske is the most respected “brand” in American motorsports. Roger’s path to success began as a car-loving teenager in suburban Cleveland, Ohio. From his parents’ driveway Penske would buy and sell sports cars, which he had purchased and restored. Some found their way to the track — and Victory Circle, with Roger at the wheel. By 1961 Penske was honored as Sports Illustrated’s “Driver of the Year”.
In 1965, at the top of his game, he gave up driving to build his automotive empire, starting with a dealership in Philadelphia, then acquiring a truck leasing business, a second dealership and two racing tire distributorships. In 1969, Penske Corporation was formed. While his passion for driving may have been put on hold, his love of motorsports never waned. Joining forces with driver/engineer Mark Donohue, Penske Racing was created, becoming the motorsports arm of Penske Corporation. Penske Racing debuted at the Indianapolis 500 in 1969, winning the first of 16 Indy 500’s in 1972. Since then, Penske Racing has dominated in virtually every form of racing, earning nearly 400 victories and 27 National Championships including IndyCar, Sports Car, Trans Am and NASCAR.
The reasons for Penske’s remarkable success were well documented in the late Mark Donahue’s book, “The Unfair Advantage”. Their “unfair advantage” was identified as a total dedication to preparation and professionalism. Those same qualities are found in all Penske enterprises, on the track or in a boardroom. Clearly, racing improves the product.